Planting season is fast approaching and it's been a busy time at North Uist Distillery as the team, and members of the public, have been busy working away to separate the bere from the oats.
Bere barley is an ancient grain that was once the base for all of the whisky in Scotland. It fell out of favour over the years as more commercially successful varieties were developed, however here in Uist it has continued to be grown by a small number of crofters dedicated to preserving the traditional variety. We have been lucky enough to work with some of these crofters to establish a bere barley supply chain that will be the backbone of our upcoming Nunton Whisky.
Currently our seed supply is at 98% bere barely and 2% oats, and while that is just grand its traditional role in feeding livestock, it's not quite pure enough for a groundbreaking whisky project! Due to the small scale we're working at in our craft distillery, our seed quantities don't come anywhere near the minimum weights required for industrial sorting methods, which means we have needed hands... lots of hands!
We put out a call for eagle-eyed islanders to join us on our sorting project, and the tasting room has been busy with people calling in to spend an hour or two on the strangely meditative task of separating the bere from the oats. Each sorter has left with a miniature and tonic of their choice, an entry into a draw for a Downpour hamper, and the satisfaction of getting their hands (quite literally) into Uist's first whisky.